Saturday, June 02, 2007

Jack Edward Oliver (1942-2007)

Jack Edward Oliver was born in Dartford, Kent, on 19 June 1942. Always interested in cartoons and drawings, he produced his own comic books from the age of 8. After attending Dartford Grammar School, he joined the Greater London Council Vehicle Licensing Department where he workde for eight years.

He continued drawing during this time and put together a comic of his own entitled Instant Garbage (Oct 1968), a mixture of Mad-style advertising, strips and parodies. The comic earned him his first strip, 'Toppo D. Popps', which appeared in the Luton Evening Post, which in turn led to work on the music paper Disc. Launched in late 1970 and originally entitled 'E C Ryder', Oliver produced a page for the paper which continued Oliver's love of parody, homage, puns and caricatures. One of the most popular characters to populate the page (which became simply titled 'j.edward oliver') was the dinosaur Fresco-le-Raye who proved so popular he had his own fan club with over 4,000 members.

Oliver's arguments with the editors of Disc (later Disc and Music Echo) spilled over into the strip. Oliver would often complain about the lack of a pay rise and censorship on the strip within the strip itself. He would often leave panels blank as a protest and on one occasion in 1974 the blank was filled in by editor Lon Goddard. The strip was reduced from a full page to a half page when Disc became Record Mirror and eventually axed as the paper wanted to change direction to appeal to the new punk audience. Invited to submit samples for new strips, Oliver (and his occasional pen-name Sue Denim) were dropped from the paper in November 1977 after 386 episodes and various other contributions.

Oliver found work with IPC Magazines' humour titles, his work appearing for the next 22 years in Whizzer & Chips, Jackpot and Buster. Characters drawn by Oliver include 'The Champ', 'Teeny Sweeney', 'Mastermind!', 'Cliff Hanger', 'Whizz-Kids v Chip-Ites' and 'Vid Kid'. By the late 1990s, most of the humour papers had folded or were relying on reprints. Oliver was the last surviving artist on Buster and drew the final page for the final issue when it appeared in January 2000.

During his years with IPC, Oliver wrote lyrics for the musical Swan Esther, based on the Bible story of a beauty-contest winner who married the King of Persia. With music by Nick Munns, the show appeared at the Young Vic in 1984.

In 1996, Fresco-le-Raye was revived as a proposed daily newspaper strip. Oliver provided illustrations for Bob Harris' autobiography The Whispering Years (London, BBC Worldwide, 2001). The Jack Edward Oliver website was launched by Peter Sanders in March 2002, in time to celebrate Fresco-le-Raye's 2,000,030th birthday, posting unpublished samples of Fresco-le-Raye and a second try-out strip, 'The Invisible Man'. Over the next few years Oliver produced a variety of cards, covers, advertising strips and a series of 'Phil Stamp' first day covers, published by his cousin Steve Oliver.

In March 2007, Jack Edward Oliver married his long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Hales. He died on 26 May 2007. His website continues to host a variety of his work, including a crossword, a jigsaw puzzle and a number of previously unpublished samples, including 'Fax' and the adventures of 'The Invisible Woman'.

(* Much of the above information was derived from Peter Sanders' Jack Edward Oliver website, as are the pics. and the photo. Unfortunately, my small collection of IPC humour comics is stashed away in the attic and I've no chance of getting to them just now (busy weekend). And it's nice to have something you might not have seen before.)


  1. It must be pointed out that the J Edward Oliver site mentioned here was not Jack's but mine, to which Jack did contribute material. The illustrations for the Bob Harris book were re-prints from an old Disc strip.

  2. Thanks, Peter. I've adjusted the text to reflect the fact.

  3. Yes, I certainly did fill in a blank frame that disgruntled Jack submitted to me as a protest back in the heady days of Disc; as warned, I drew JEO himself and put the on-strike inker into his own comic strip. Wait until I catch up with you in the next world, my boy - we will continue this on pp94...-------LON GODDARD

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